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Derek Abma and National Post misrepresent views of Elliot Diringer

Written by Sherwin, published on December 1, 2011

National Post article by Derek Abma

On November 30th, Derek Abma wrote an article for the National Post, claiming that the journal Nature, and one of it’s authors, Elliot Diringer, was recommending that we let the Kyoto accord die. While the article gets many small facts and half truths right, Abma manages to misrepresent the essential argument by Diringer. But that’s not all that’s wrong with Derek Abma’s reporting.

The article overview

The title of the Abma’s article1 had two versions:

  1. Let Kyoto die, scientific journal Nature says
  2. Let Kyoto die, prominent scientific journal says

Riffing off of this title, Abma leads with the idea that prominent scientists are opposed to Kyoto. He refers to two articles published recently in Nature. He gives a brief history of Kyoto and summarizes some of one of the article’s analysis of the shifting geopolitical circumstances we find ourselves in.2 All the while, Abma repeats the mantra that someone, not him, thinks that Kyoto should die. 3 He makes note of a range of things Diringer wrote and closes with a couple of quotes by the Executive Director of Sierra Club of Canada, John Bennet.

Some basic problems with Abma’s ‘journalism’

Some leading voices on climate science have suggested that the Kyoto Protocol be put to pasture as international representatives meet in Durban, South Africa, to discuss the environment… In a recent issue of the science journal Nature, both an editorial and separate commentary article suggested that clinging to hopes of a renewal of that agreement, or another pact with binding emissions targets, does more harm than good in achieving meaningful dialogue on how to fight climate change.

These are the leading paragraphs of Abma’s article. Abma, unfortunately, never links to the journal Nature. He doesn’t even give us enough bibliographic information to find half of the articles he refers to and uses as part of his argument. Citations are a basic requirement of anything trying to pass as reporting. And for this reason alone, this article fails to be more than public relations and advertising.4

The framing of Diringer’s article is false

By the time the reader gets through the first few paragraphs, they have been led to believe that prominent scientists are opposed to Kyoto and want it to fail. But this is false. It is in this sense that Abma’s article flatly misrepresents the views of Elliot Diringer, who believes that:

  1. global warming is happening,
  2. global warming is caused by humans,
  3. it’s possible to mitigate the impacts of global warming through the regulation of industry,
  4. an international agreement of some kind is required to mitigate climate change,
  5. this international agreement should be binding, eventually

These are important, basic points of diringer’s analysis, that Abma leaves out. He never mentions them.

Elliot Diringer essentially argues that while Kyoto has failed so far, the fact of it’s failure is unfortunate. The Kyoto accord is failing, however, and given the changing geo-political realities we face, the “binding-or-nothing mentality” should be curbed. He argues, in short, that there should be some kind of international, binding agreement.5

In fact, Diringer concludes his article by claiming that In Durban, parties should work towards eventual binding commitments:

In Durban, parties should indeed set their sights towards eventual binding commitments. But they should focus primarily on the more prosaic nuts and bolts of strengthening transparency and support for developing countries. However incremental, such steps will get us further than a recurring cycle of false expectation and failure.

You would never actually know this if you read the National Post. And that’s the problem. 6

Structural deception by the National Post

It’s not just because they say false things. Everyone says the occasionally false thing. And the National Post writers do a pretty good job of not saying false things too often.

But the best propaganda is always true.

This is the way sales and marketing people do it. Say true stuff. Don’t open yourself up to the obvious criticisms that come with saying false things. There’s no need to take that risk. Instead, simply leave out the true things that don’t help your case.  And pay special attention to the order of facts and the emphasis that you put on the things you write or say.7

The National Post is trying to sell influence

The National Post wants to be seen as something other than sales and marketing and advertising and public relations. That’s why their description says “Canada’s trusted source for National news.” This way they can try to get in under the bullshit radar that folks have.8

The brand power enjoyed by the National Post is shared by many other news organizations that don’t deserve it. It’s a problem with modern press and modern media. Fox News is not news. Nor is the the National Post. Nor, I believe, are many other organizations pretending to be.

On my view, the National Post would benefit from taking seriously Rebecca Blood’s blog ethics.

Comments by regular readers of the National Post revealing of National Post narrative

As further evidence of the structural bias of the National Post, I present a smattering of comments by various fans and readers of the Derek Abma article. I should point out, that the bulk of comments were by posters that had anonymous handles. I make note of this because it is a common enough tactic by oil industry public relations firms to flood commenting areas with comments that appear to be from different people.9 I also want to note that the bulk of comments were anti-Kyoto, anti-anthropogenic climate change, and anti-regulation. So basically, the comments reflect the narrative of the National Post.

The world is only warming by about one degree C  a century. And that is coming out of the Little Ice Age. Plus, no warming for the last 12 years or so. I see no need to panic. Yes, lets take Kyoto out behind the barn and put an end to this sick beast.  T-Rex,  thanks for reminding us of CLIMATEGATE 2.0   Now if only the Post would run a story on this new release of political warming science E-mails. – Paddle N. Fish (8 likes)

Sherwin Arnott is a great example of a person with an IQ of 80. – SteveDobbs (10 likes)

Nature is an AGW Mike Mann sucker with NO hope of honest reporting on anything. In fact Nature is closer to an AGW Bible accessory that a science magazine. – T-Rex (8 likes)

They just don’t get it..their science was proven wrong…made made global warming/climate change was a scam from day one…..its a huge money trail to no where…..yet its hard to wean ones self off the public teat……thats what the are crying about….// – Ken E. (10 likes)

Not only should Kyoto be buried but these eco terrorist groups who want to destroy the economy should be shut down. Look what they did to Europe, and through the EPA, the US. – Robmax (12 likes)

The Kyoto Agreement was the biggest hoax ever foisted on the industrial nations… Al Gore who lives in a mansion and drives gas guzzlers another phony… – Yusume (47 likes)

  1. Derek Abma article
  2. developing countries account for a growing and sizable portion of the green house gas emissions; China and the US emit more green house gasses than we do.
  3. Interestingly, Abma never admits to have an interest in the Kyoto accord failing.
  4. See Abma’s tweet here: http://twitter.com/#!/derekabma/status/142039661408301056
  5. I would point out that the Kyoto accord is failing, in part, because some countries, like Canada, have been intransigent and obstructionist.
  6. Oh, and here’s the link to read the Diringer article. Not that hard, is it.
  7. The National Post narrative is “less government”, “less taxation”, “less regulation”, “environmentalists are alarmists”, “climate change is bogus”, “colonization is a good thing”, etc.
  8. The full self-description of the National Post is: “Canada’s trusted source for national news, financial news, world news, blogging, twitter, tweets, opinion, vodcast, podcast, commentary, entertainment and sports”
  9. For more information about astroturfing check out: George Monbiot: Robot Wars
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Archived comments

  1. Alessandro Sisti says:

    Thanks for this brief essay. After wading through the comments on the story in the Post, it’s nice to see someone actually deal with the article and with Diringer themselves.

  2. Alberta Aardvark says:

    The National Post is sooo bad. Don’t even waste time writing about how bad they are. It’s not journalism!